Guest Blog: Top 6 Tips to Stay Focused During Finals Week

ACC student studying in the student lounge.

During finals week, the tension on campus is palpable. It’s like each student’s mind is somewhere else – reviewing lessons, memorizing vocabulary, problem solving – and most people are locked down at the library or in their rooms squeezing the most out of their study time.

With so much weighing on exam results, it’s easy to get lost studying and become overwhelmed by how much needs to be done. Too much stress, however, can affect memory recall and make it harder to learn. High levels of anxiety can cause you to “freeze” and make you unable to concentrate. To stay focused during finals week, follow these six tips that cover your mind, body, environment, and studying.

Tip 1: Take care of your mind with a three-minute meditation

Find a few minutes to shut off your mind and meditate. Need a reason why? Here are several: meditating can increase your focus by ten times and help lead to 75% less depression, 30% less anxiety, and 65% more well-being. Meditation increases your mental strength and focus and increases memory retention and recall.

If you’ve never meditated before, all you have to do is sit in a comfortable position with no distractions. Slowly breathe in and out of your nose to oxygenate your body’s tissues and relieve tension. Focus on being present and each time your mind follows a thought, notice it, breathe, and release. Try this for a few minutes and don’t worry about getting it “right.” It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind and body.

Tip 2: Refuel yourself with exercise, nutrition, and sleep

Exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep may seem like obvious tips, but many of us don’t follow this advice. If you don’t have time for the recommended twenty to thirty minutes of exercise a day, find at least ten minutes to stretch, walk, and get your heart rate up. Eat protein-rich meals with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, and water. Avoid carbohydrates that will give you a sugar high then leave you feeling exhausted. Unwind before bed with a few minutes of meditation or by listening to calming music to release lingering thoughts. Get enough sleep, which varies depending on what you need to function.

ACC Law LibraryTip 3: Map out your study zones

If your room becomes a party zone, as is often the case if your roommates finish their exams before you, you need a backup plan that includes alternative places to study. Create a short list that includes addresses, phone numbers, opening and closing hours, and Wi-Fi availability. Ideal places include the school library, public library, and local cafes.

Tip 4: Create a study schedule

Estimate how much time you need to prepare for each final and work backward to find the dates for when you need to begin studying, writing, and preparing. Prioritize which is most important and take it one piece at a time. This helps you avoid last-minute cramming sessions that do little to raise your grade and a lot to make you exhausted.

Tip 5: Follow a study strategy

Study strategically by studying in short increments. Break up your study sessions according to task, such as read, write, memorize, review, and then repeat. This will help you to avoid study burnout.

Tip 6: Take breaks to recharge

Every fifteen to twenty minutes, take a break by walking around, getting some fresh air, or talking to a friend. Taking a “microbreak,” which is from thirty seconds to five minutes, can improve your mental acuity by an average of 13%. If you’re spending a lot of time in front of the computer, taking a fifteen-second break every ten minutes can reduce fatigue by 50%. Treat your breaks as a time to unplug, step away from your computer, and give your mind (and eyes) a rest. You’ll extend the length of time you’ll be able to study and will be more productive.

Taking a comprehensive approach to staying focused during finals week will help you reap the benefits of being calm, cool, and collected during your exams. As your friends are cramming and stressing out, you’ll be the epitome of Zen with a sharply focused mind and a calm outlook. Finals week is approaching, so apply these tips and see how they can help you.


Eric Hung is the Co-Founder of, which helps high school and college students reach their potential through video lessons from awesome teachers. He started the company after studying biomedical engineering at Duke (BSE) and USC (MS) as a way for students struggling with math and science to get help without the expense of private tutors. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Finals Week Activities and Services

We know finals can be really stressful. We’re here to help you make it through with your sanity and a decent grade. We’ve gathered all of our activities and services available into one place for your convenience.

Littleton Campus

Library & Learning Commons

Therapy Dogs - October 2015

De-stressing with the Therapy Dogs in the ACC Library & Learning Commons

  • December 7, 8, 9, & 10, the Library & Learning Commons will be offering “study snacks” throughout the morning and evening.
  • December 7, 8, 9, & 10, the Library & Learning Commons will remain open until 10 p.m. for you night owls.
  • CANCELLED: December 9th, the stress-relief therapy dogs will be here from noon to 2:00 p.m.

Student Success Center

Peer Tutors are here to help with final exams, papers, and projects up until Dec 15. Drop-in hours are Mondays – Wednesdays 10 am – 6 pm, Thursdays 10 am – 5 pm. Other days/times may be arranged for appointments by calling 303-797-5824.

Math Support Center

Extended hours: December 4 and 11 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Student Life

Soup & Stress Relief

Soup and Stress Relief

Soup and Stress Relief

Dec. 8 and 9 at 11 a.m.
Second Floor Atrium 
Don’t take finals on an empty stomach…let ACC do the cooking. Enjoy complimentary soup, salad and bread beginning at 11:00 a.m. both days in the Second Floor Atrium.

PJs With Santa

December 11 at 6 p.m. in the Summit Room

Enjoy an evening of holiday cheer with dinner, dessert and storytelling.  Festivities will include fun and games for children, as well as a special appearance by Santa Claus himself.

Admission is $3 for kids and $4 for adults.  Please purchase tickets in advance at the Student Life Office (Room M2820).

ACC Parker Campus

December 7-15
Finals Week Coffee Bar

The semester is wrapping up. Free coffee tea and snacks will be available for during finals week. Refuel and warm up before or after your big test! You are going to do great!

ACC Castle Rock Campus

December 7-15
Free coffee, tea and hot chocolate bar and snacks will be available finals week. Refuel and warm up before or after your big test!

Finding a Balance – Work/Life/School/Holidays

Union Station, Denver, CO

Union Station during the holidays, Denver, CO

Let’s face it…this time of the year can be stressful. Between finals, holiday parties, work, and family, it can be hard to stay calm and stress-free through the holiday season.

We’ve put together a quick list of things you can do to keep the stress at a minimum and enjoy the holidays.

  1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
    Getting everything done can be daunting. If you plan your time wisely, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress. Plot a schedule of time for studying, holiday shopping, whatever you need to get done. Plan in small blocks to ensure you don’t get fatigued in any one area, or you may find your motivation wavers.
  2. Shop online
    Shopping online will allow you to check prices, find deals and save travel time going from store to store. Many online stores have free shipping deals as well. Take it one step further and ask family members to make a wish list. There are many online wish list tools like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and more that are free and easy to use. This will alleviate some of the stress of trying to find the perfect gift. You’ll know what they want and can build off of that if you want to get creative beyond that.
  3. Break you study sessions into smaller chunks
    By breaking your study sessions into small blocks, you’ll be able to review the material without it getting overwhelming. Just make sure you start early enough to get through it all.
  4. Don’t over-commit
    Just because you get invited to 17 holiday parties, doesn’t mean you have to go to all 17. Pick the ones that work for your schedule and won’t cause undue stress. Pick one or two where maybe you’ll see more of your friends and family so you can get more bang for your buck, so to speak. People will understand if you can’t make it to everything, especially if you let them know in advance and are sincere.
  5. Don’t forget to schedule downtime
    You need to recharge both your mind and your body. Schedule time to relax, read, workout, bake or whatever eases your mind and recharges your battery. You need to take time to take care of yourself so you don’t get bogged down by your responsibilities. It’s all about keeping your stress low, so do what makes you happy.
  6. Take time off
    Do you have vacation time stacking up? Use it. Just a few hours here and there can make a big difference. If you aren’t in retail, the holiday season tends to get a bit quieter, so you won’t be as stressed taking those hours off. If you are in retail or a job that is busier during the holidays, be smart about planning your work/school/holiday schedule. It can be tempting to put in those extra hours, just be sure you can fit it into your schedule.

Remember, take it one task at a time and don’t get overwhelmed. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll get through the holidays and even have some fun while this season.

What are your tricks to balancing your responsibilities this time of year?

by Jess Horning, Digital Content Administrator, ACC Marketing & Web